Friday, November 30, 2007
Posted by Dharm
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer"
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Christmas is fast approaching and I'm very honoured to be the latest contributor to The Daily Tiffin. As a quick introduction, I'm from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, have two wonderful kids and a lovely wife. Yeap, you read right - I'm a MAN! So enough of introductions, let's get on with Christmas!
Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Not only does it invoke images of gaiety and festivity, it's also the end of the year and time for a short break!
Christmas has always been special to me, aside from the religious factor. It's a special time of sharing love and joy with family and friends. I also love all the traditions and especially the presents! Although now I take much greater joy in Giving rather than in Receiving
I remember when I was young, my parents used to get us to write letters to Santa Claus. My two brothers and I used to diligently write these letters detailing the toys and other stuff that we wanted. This practice went on till I was about 10 years old, even though we all knew (especially my 2 older brothers) that good ol' Santa was really only in our minds.
In those days, all the relatives used to congregate in my paternal grandmother's house for dinner before singing carols and then sitting down to open all our presents. We'd the count the clock down till 12am and gleefully shout "Merry Christmas" with plenty of hugs and kisses all round.
Nowadays, Christmas Eve is spent with my wife's side of the family. We all meet in her parents house for Christmas Eve Dinner before opening the presents. I take the role in giving out the presents each year, and in keeping with the tradition of Santa, I buy a 'dud' present as a gift from Santa Claus to all the children. One year it was a large carton of candies, the next year it was three bottles of Coke wrapped up in a box, then there was the one year with a large box of potato chips. All just for the fun of course.
Once we return home, my wife, the kids and I open up our own presents to each other. I prefer to keep our presents to each other private and thus more meaningful. The kids also get a special present from Santa although this is normally something nice rather than a 'dud' gift!
This year, I plan on printing out free Santa letters from the web (there are a lot of them out there) and send them to my kids by post. I'm sure they'll be excited to receive something in the post from Santa - regardless of whether they know he is real or not!
I try and make sure the kids get involved in celebrating Christmas and make sure they help in buying presents for both my wife and for each other. They take great delight in decorating the Christmas Tree and we have a new tradition now that each year, we buy a special decoration for each kid to hang on the tree. And of course, Church on Christmas Morning is a must!
The kids also enjoy helping me make the chocolate cake to take over to my parents place where we celebrate Christmas with friends and family, on Christmas Day itself. Last year, I made the cake in the shape of a log to every ones delight and I think I'll do it again this year.
Strangely enough, Christmas Dinners for us invariably end up being western influenced, even though we are in Asia, and are held on Christmas Eve. As I mentioned earlier, Christmas Dinner these days is at my in-laws and for some reason, they love to serve turkey. I'm not a great fan of turkey and the one time that we hosted the Christmas Dinner, I insisted there would be NO Turkey!
Sometimes a simple meal is best, as then you, as the cook, can sit down and enjoy the dinner and fellowship. For really, isn't that what Christmas Dinner is about?
What I would suggest is a nice, creamy soup or just a simple Greek Salad as the starter.
Of course eaten with loads of Garlic Bread. Or maybe for a change, try it with some Corn Bread
I like the corn bread because its fairly easy to make and doesn't use yeast. It's fabulous eaten with some garlic butter or herbed butter.
For the main course, how about some Chicken Pie? Don't let the pastry scare you! I use ready made frozen puff pastry and shortcrust pastry sheets for the top and base respectively. The filling is my own recipe using chicken chunks,mushrooms, carrots and cream with some bacon thrown in together with some herbs. If you are vegetarian, just omit the chicken and you have a lovely veetarian pie.
The beauty of this dish is that you can prepare it earlier and then put it in the oven just as your guests arrive.
And of course for the finishing touch you have to serve a decadent and scrumptious dessert. To me, there is nothing more decadent than chocolate and no dessert as satisfying as Chocolate Mousse. I've always loved Chocolate Mousse and this is my own recipe developed after many years of trial and error!
So there you have it. A lovely Christmas spread and before you dismiss it as being too complicated or difficult, bear in mind that I cooked each of these dishes. These are the actual pictures of the food that were taken for a feature I did for a local Malaysian website, The Weekend Chef. All this from a man that has had no formal training whatsoever, other than his love for food and of cooking for his wife and kids. So if I can do it, whats stopping you?
Have a Blessed Christmas everybody!
Recipe for Chicken Pie
1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry
1 sheet frozen Shortcrust Pastry
400 gm Boneless Chicken Breast
250 gm Fresh Button Mushrooms
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Large Carrots
250 gm fresh Spinach (or use frozen if you like)
200 ml Cream
½ Tsp Black Pepper
½ tbsp Corn Flour
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Oregano
2 Bay Leaves
½ tsp Rosemary
8 Rashers Bacon (optional)
Line bottom of 9” pie dish with shortcrust pastry. Trim edges and use to cover open areas of dish and line edges of dish. Bake Blind in pre-heated 190oC Oven for about 15 minutes. (Baking Blind means covering the pastry with baking parchment / greaseproff paper and filling the shell with rice or beans to prevent the pastry from rising. Baking blind ensures that the bottom layer stays firm and doesn’t get soggy once the filling is put in.) Remove and let cool.
While shell is baking, Cut chicken into small squares. Mix 1/2 tbsp corn flour with pepper and salt. Add in Chicken and mix well so that chicken pieces are coated. Let rest.
Meanwhile, slice mushrooms thinly, cut carrots and potatoes into squares. Heat oil in pan. Add in chopped garlic, Oregano, Bay leaves and Rosemary and fry lightly till fragrant. Add in Chicken and cook well. Add in bacon if using and cook well.
Add in Mushroom and cook till mushrooms are tender. Add in Potatoes and Carrots and simmer. Add in Cream. Mix well and simmer uncovered. Add in chopped spinach and mix well. Continue to simmer until mixture is thick and potatoes, carrots and spinach are all cooked. Allow to cool.
Fill shell with Chicken filling, taking care to fill evenly to corners and sides. Ensure that filling is COOL before filling pie. Cover with sheet of Puff Pastry. Moisten edges of pastry with water and press down firmly. Using a butter knife, trim the sides, cutting upwards. This helps the pastry from separating while baking.
Using left over pastry, decorate top of pie with pastry shapes. Beat the egg lightly and brush top and edges of pie. Bake in a Pre-Heated 2200C Oven on the middle tray for at least 20 minutes or until pastry has risen and is golden brown.
Serve Hot and Enjoy!
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This Post was written by Dharm from Dad ~ Baker & Chef